“I have to be doing something creative, it doesn’t have to be in the studio, in the garden or redoing the home but if I am not doing something creative I feel something is missing”: Joan Colbert, 60, artist, painter Akron, Ohio
Joan Colbert invited us to her little studio in the second floor of her home in Akron. Joan is a mixed media artist and Gallery Coordinator at Summit Artspace, located in downtown Akron. Recently she had been doing relief printmaking. “It is all hand printed – my work is mostly black and white, sometimes with collage.” The linoleum plate is mounted on wood. The image is cut into the linoleum, the plate is inked and the prints are pulled. The current, unfinished piece depicts blackbirds and a sky full of numbers. Blackbirds are a favorite motif.
Her mother was her first influence: “She was very supportive and encouraged her daughters to take an interest in many things.”
Her degrees are in art and education. As a kid she always enjoyed making things. She liked to draw and learned many basic handwork skills like knitting and crocheting, with sewing being her favorite. Later, with a family, a job and all the related distractions, there was often not much time for personal work. One day she realized that “I have to be doing something creative. It doesn’t have to be in the studio, it can be in the garden or amid some overwhelming DIY project, but if I am not involved creatively I feel an emptiness, that something crucial is missing.”
In the 70s Joan worked for the Akron Public Library in the publicity/display department. “We did posters, fliers, publications and other graphic work. It was so much more hands on.” Most everything was completely handmade – very low tech by today’s standards, but often very creative. Her coworkers, all women, were talented and experienced and she learned much from them. In the 80s she returned to school for additional art classes and decided to seriously pursue a career in fine arts. Her work includes painting and collage, but she especially likes to work in black and white. “It looks really simple, but I like the thought process that goes into it. I can get lost in planning and developing the composition.” Joan’s subject through much of her artwork seems to be the blackbirds. Additionally, trees and their symbolism serve as inspiration, as do themes from literature and music.
Three months before the interview Joan’s husband died after getting very ill very unexpectedly. “He died from multiple infections. The first six months of the year, throughout his hospitalization, I just tried to keep my head above water. He was my best friend – every once in a while I still think, how did this happen?”
Imagining being 80 she says: “Artists are fortunate; wonderful art can spring from very basic processes. As long as you have your vision and some mobility you can create. With imagination and resourcefulness both artists and writers have an advantage: minimal equipment necessary.”
Interviewed: 30. 09.2011